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Mendy Smith

Bow Trials - Playing Environments

February 2, 2011 at 7:32 AM

As the bow trial process continues, I'm taking the top two contenders and putting them through their paces in my typical playing environments: home practice, lessons, chamber and orchestral rehearsals.  This week, bow #4 (the  heavier 70.8 gram) got its maiden trial in chamber and orchestral rehearsals. 

Both of these rehearsals were anywhere between 2-3 hours long and consisted of pieces that required sudden dynamic changes, a plethora of bowing techniques, and very different demands in volume balance. My bow arm did not get tired from playing for so many hours.  Now that I've become accustomed to the bow I find that I can easily execute a wide variety of bowing techniques which were a struggle at best with my current bows. 

In the chamber music rehearsal, we are studying the Beethoven Terzetto and a Micheal Kimber piece for 3 violas that is much like the Barber Adagio.   I was able to easily maintain a good balance with my cohorts. I was able to project without being over-powering, and was able to play under the other parts without disappearing from the musical balance.  When it came time for my part to be important or to emphasize an occasional note using a bowing technique, I got a "good" look from my partners. 

In the orchestral setting, I was able to hear myself over the brass & woodwind section - so very important in the viola section when you are not front desk.  Though much of rehearsal for the viola section was spent "at rest", the bow did get a good workout moving between pizz and arco as well as some incredibly fast runs (separated bows) from the bottom to top string.  Going from arco to pizz without a rest in-between is difficult enough, especially at a quick tempo.  With bow #4, this transition did not have my pinky working overtime to maintain control over the tip of the bow. 

I will have my first lesson with the bows this Saturday for another round of comparisons,  then bow #1 will get its chamber & orchestral trial. 

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on February 3, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Sounds like you may have found a winner!  If #1 passes the tests too, a hard decision.  It's good you have put in some long hours.  I tried one viola bow that made the base joint of my little finger ache, but only after about two hours of steady playing.  That sort of thing can wreak havoc on you much farther down the road, and it's nothing you would spot while going back and forth between a couple of bows for an hour or so.

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